You are on page 1of 3

Joseph Kao Professor Brantingham English 1AH May 9, 2011 Adult Time for Adult Crime: Essay Comparison

In “Little Adult Criminals” published in the New York Times Editorial, the author presents two cases regarding under-aged murderers and argues that children who commit serious crimes (such as murder) are not adults and should not be tried as an adult. The author goes on to say that teens who are seventeen years of age may have the “emotional maturity to control their impulses, or to fully understand their actions,” while children aged twelve to fourteen may not. The juvenile system focuses on rehabilitation, while the adult system focuses on punishment. So, according to the author, sending a teen to an adult prison might “insure that they become lifelong criminals.” In Laurence Steinberg’s essay, “Should Juvenile Offenders be tried as Adults?” he argues that more emphasis should put on the offender’s age and mental/emotional maturity, and less on the crime itself. There are crimes that can place the offender in an adult correctional facility; however, the motive behind the crime varies. Another point the author brings up is an adult trial presumes the offender to be “mature, competent, responsible, and unlikely to change.” Although a juvenile may not suffer from mental retardation or disease, they may lack the maturity to understand and comprehend the adult trial process. Hence, the author believes that juveniles twelve years of age and under should be trialed as juveniles, and those who are sixteen years of age and over may be trial in a adult system. The years between twelve and sixteen however, deserve a specialized, unique assessment to accurately determine which system the individual should be tried in. Both these essays are flawed in their own ways. The thesis statements on both essays are poorly constructed while the topic sentences in both essays are decent. Steinberg’s essay includes more “pretentious diction” and “meaningless words” as listed in George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language.” Both essays are also lacking strong support. Although both essays include a poor thesis, lacks support, and uses “pretentious diction” and “meaningless words,” “Little Adult Criminals” is slightly better than Steinberg’s essay. The thesis statement in “Little Adult Criminals” is poor because it does not include the main topics of the essay. The author writes, “Two high-profile murder trials in Florida this year have sounded a warning that the trend may have gone too far.” The author does talk about two specific murder trials in Florida, however the question remains unanswered. Also, the word “trend” is not explained in the essay. Paragraph four is the first time the author clearly states the topics and arguments of the essay. Although strong, these topics and arguments are spread out over several sentences, where as a good thesis should only have one. Steinberg’s thesis is poor because it is also vague and does not answer the question. He states, “The only way out of this dilemma is either to redefine the offense as something less serious than a crime or to redefine the offender as someone who is not really a child.” Again the author does not explain what the “dilemma” is. In this case, there is no clear “thesis” or a direct proof of his arguments; the author simply addresses a topic and immediately explains it. Hence, his essay consists of many small sections and does not have an overall structure. Both essays do not contain enough support and the few support they have lack credibility. In “Little Adult Criminals” most of the facts are quotes from the actual trial, which

provides more support. However, the author also uses words such as “studies show” which decreases the credibility of the information. To improve the credibility, the author might include the name of the studies and the person conducting it. The facts in this essay are also used because they serve the purpose of appealing to the reader emotionally. Due to the lack of concrete information the author writes in a way that makes the reader feel sympathetic toward the offender. After hearing his sentence, the offender replies, “Not too bad,” was the youth’s reaction to the verdict, which carries a sentence of twenty-five years to life in prison. In his case we are again left wondering whether the disciplinary troubles of a teenager would have escalated into a crime if he had lived in a place where guns were not so readily available.” Again, the author dismisses the gravity of the sentence and diverges the responsibility from the offender to his surroundings. Therefore, most of the facts and support in this essay is either appealing to emotion or biased. In Steinberg’s essay, the support is quite vague as well. “For the past 100 years, American society has most often chosen the first approach.” A lot has happened with the past 100 years, so in order to be more credible; the author might list significant events that happened. Since the phrase “most often” is not concrete, the information loses credibility. Another instance the author does not use specific information, “In recent years, though, there has been a dramatic shift in the way juvenile crime is viewed by policymakers and the general public, one that has led to wide-spread changes in policies and practices concerning the treatment of juvenile offenders.” Again, vague in terms of date, and the term “policymakers and general public” have no credibility to them. Steinberg is also a developmental psychologist, so his research may be tainted with his opinions and viewpoints which leads to a biased research. The essays also contains pretentious diction and meaningless words which are often irrelevant and confusing to comprehend. In “Little Adult Criminals,” the author states, “The governor can act upon this belief in reviewing the clemency petitions of both boys.” The term “clemency” can easily be replaced with a more common word. Other instances of pretentious diction are, “...such as when a seventeen-year-old with a history of violent behavior commits a heinous, premeditated crime,” and “an individual’s level of culpability.” Because the author uses word that appeal to emotion, words such as “heinous” and “culpability” are used to draw the reader’s attention away from the topic. Another reason the author might use pretentious diction is to appear intelligent. Steinberg also uses plenty of pretentious diction and meaningless words. “To the extent that malleability is likely, transferring juveniles into a criminal justice system that precludes a rehabilitative response may not be very sensible public policy. However, to the extent that amenability is limited, their transfer to the adult system is less worrisome.” Words such as “malleability,” “precludes,” “rehabilitative,” and “amenability” are all great examples of confusing, unnecessary words. Again the author uses emotion to convey the information, therefore his writing must be complicated and confusing so that the reader cannot fully understand the information. Pretentious diction allows the author to conceal the unbiased information; then, uses simple and plain words to feed the reader biased information, facts, and viewpoints. The essay “Little Adult Criminals,” is slightly better then Steinberg’s essay because it contains less “pretentious diction,” and has better support. The thesis statements in both essays are poor because it does not list the topics or main points of the body paragraphs. The topic sentences are average because the explanation of the topic is spread throughout the paragraph. The use

of pretentious diction first confuses the reader, then causes the reader to become emotionally influenced. This allows the author to use vague, non-credible sources as support and still sound convincing.